This study explores the effects of agricultural trade liberalisation and concomitant changes in agricultural areas and livestock production on greenhouse gas emissions using the coupled LEITAP–IMAGE modelling system.
The results indicate that liberalisation leads to an increase in total greenhouse gas emissions by about 6% compared to the reference scenario value in 2015. The increase in CO2 emissions are caused by vegetation clearance due to a rapid expansion of agricultural area; mainly in South America and Southeast Asia. Increased methane emissions in the case of full liberalisation are caused by less intensive cattle farming in regions such as South America and Southeast Asia. This pattern is observed up to 2050. Total global production of milk, dairy and beef do not change with full liberalisation, but production shifts were observed from North America and Europe to South America and Southeast Asia.
Results are less pronounced in variants where trade liberalisation is only implemented partially. Remarkably, our study shows in the trade barrier removal scenario larger numbers of dairy cows in Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) then with full liberalisation scenario or a variant in which only milk quota are abolished. This illustrates that different types of liberalisation need to be analysed regionally and per commodity before general conclusions on the impact of trade liberalisation can be drawn. Our study contributes new information on greenhouse gas emissions to a vast number of trade liberalisation studies that focus on economic impacts. The combined economic-environmental impacts need to be assessed in detail before general conclusions on trade liberalisation can be given.